As if the conviction of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was not enough of a PR nightmare, the release of the Freeh report detailing Penn State officials’ involvement in the covering up of Sandusky’s crimes made things much worse. The 267-page report released on July 12 named Penn state officials such as university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and the beloved and revered head football coach Joe Paterno.
Since the release of the report several groups have made attempts to distance themselves from Joe Pa. First, Nike announced they would remove Paterno’s name from their Child Development Center. Brown University, Paterno’s alma mater, decided to take Paterno’s name off their annual award recognizing the top performing freshmen student athlete. The most recent group were Penn State students who announced that they would re-name the tent village that pops up every year the night before football season tickets go on-sale “Nittanyville”, instead of its previous name, “Paternoville.”
These groups recognize the damage that associating with Paterno can cause to their image and have made the necessary steps to remove themselves from the situation. Despite all of the changes Penn State had prior, made it was clear that Joe Paterno’s statue had to come down.
Penn State can never make what happened go away and can never repair the lives of the victims that Sandusky and those who let him run free destroyed. However, it can prove to the world that it cares about these victims, its students, and the community more than it cares about winning football games.
Much of this scandal has been a PR disaster as Penn State struggled to jump to any conclusions or make any rash and insensitive moves before finding out the truth.
After the release of the Freeh report there should not have been much discussion. The only sensible move to maintain Penn State’s fragile relationship with the public was to remove the statue. One could argue it took them too long as they initially decided to keep the statue up and a week later announced its removal
If PR is all about building and maintaining relationships with your publics than the only logical move was to remove the statue and cut any ties the university has with Joe Paterno’s name, no matter how much fun it was to win all those games.
This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Matt Jones